Wasteland Bait and Tackle: Votar o No Votar

Columns Contributions by Musicians Essays Wasteland Bait & Tackle

So I’ll write about me. But I might also be writing about you.

I cast my first vote on a poster sized paper ballot which I marked with a pencil, provided by the county, and then folded and stuffed into a black wooden box similar to the one LBJ had stolen some thirty six years prior to gain his ascendance to the U.S. Senate. I expect my father and I cast the only two Mondale votes in Archer County Texas that year, and the only two Dukakis votes in the following presidential election. I had few hopes for Mondale and less for Dukakis, but I felt guilty for not having voted in 1980. The Reagan years taught me to vote whether it matters or not, and for the most part, my vote has mattered only to me.

I voted for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barrack Obama on paperless machines in Travis County, but none of them ever never carried Texas. I did get to vote for Anne Richards and I lived in Lloyd Doggett’s congressional district for a while, so I did get to cast a counted vote or two for winning candidates of my choice, but a subsequent redistricting drew me out of Doggett’s district (seems like it also drew Doggett out of his own district and he had to move, but maybe I dreamed that part). The districts kept changing shape, but henceforth always took in enough rural red Texas to outweigh the votes of us Austin hippie types. When we left, we were represented in Congress by Lamar Smith, despite the almost total dearth of republican yard signs in our neighborhood (we did have one very outspoken libertarian).

It wasn’t Lamar Smith’s fault that Austin got too pricey, that just happened. So when the landlord decided to sell our rented duplex, we moved to Lockhart. I was heartened to see many Lloyd Doggett signs in the yards when we moved down, thinking I would once again be represented by a democrat, but alas, our house is just a little ways over into district twenty seven, represented by Michael Cloud (R. Corpus Christi). I didn’t give Cloud much thought, just another republican I figured. Yesterday, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post published a list of lawmakers who signed on to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ridiculous and seditious lawsuit against four U.S. states whose election results put the nails in the coffin of Trump’s re-election campaign. Cloud is, indeed, just another republican. He’s just another republican who thinks my vote shouldn’t count in Texas, and that no vote cast in Pennsylvania should count, at least not in this election. Cloud took an oath to defend the constitution. Where in the constitution is it stated that Texas has a say in Pennsylvania’s vote count? If Pennsylvania sued Texas over its vote count you’d hear some howling on the right. Of course, the conservative judges on the Supreme Court joined the remaining liberals and batted down the suit because they are both conservatives and judges. Conservatives don’t like to see brand new rights conjured up out of thin air and awarded to a select few, like Texas’ suddenly presumed right to meddle in the elections of other states, and judges prefer to hear cases with actual legal merit presented on the basis of actual evidence. I don’t know what Cloud is thinking, and I don’t care to give him much more thought.

Yes, elections can be stolen, as evidenced by Lyndon Johnson’s now known theft of Coke Stevenson’s democratic nomination for the Senate in 1948, but an election must be close enough to steal before it can be stolen effectively. Johnson was down by two hundred eleven votes when he made his play. Al Gore lost Florida in 2000 by five hundred seventy three votes in the initial count. Recounts in subsequent elections have never shifted the tally by as many votes as Gore would have needed to win, but Scalia didn’t want to take a chance so the Supreme Court shut down the recount in Florida and we’ll never know what all those hanging or dimpled chads meant. We do know that Gore won the national popular vote by more than a million votes and that Ralph Nader took seven million votes nationwide making the election close enough for less than one thousand votes in Florida to matter in the end. This year’s election was not close enough for anyone to steal. A conspiracy vast enough to create Biden’s seven million vote lead, spread across enough states with fairly high margins would have required too many skilled operatives for no one to get caught. Evidence would have been everywhere had there been the kind of fraud alleged by Trumpites, but even the towering legal mind of Rudy Giuliani could not find evidence to present in court. And this year we had verifiable paper trails with no chads to confuse the inevitable and repeated recounts.

More of our votes would matter if we dumped the electoral college. Rural California republicans should have a say in a presidential election, as should I, a Texas Democrat.

It also occurs to me that my vote might possibly matter more often had I and many like me voted in more elections. I didn’t used to pay attention to local politics, perhaps because I never owned a restaurant or any type of business that would be affected by local ordinances. Or maybe it was just that I was white and wasn’t going to suffer too badly, even under republican representation. I’ve never had to stand in line for more than a half hour to vote. In non-white neighborhoods, voting can take hours due to the scarcity of polling places, and voting day is still not a holiday, so hours in line are lost wages for many, not to mention the risk of COVID infection. It was those local politicians who grew up into state and national politicians who drew the district lines and gave us the world we live in today. If we want a different world in the future, we’ll have to vote now, whether it seems to matter now or not.

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